What Are You Worth?

I was sitting in a session at Podcamp a couple of Saturdays ago (February 23). During the Q&A, someone asked where to find writers for their company blog. The presenter, the president of a public relations firm suggested bidding sites, and mentioned a well-known one by name. While hearing her suggest a bidding site was interesting, her rationale saddened me. “If you go to this site, you can find a writer for pretty cheap who will likely do a couple of blog posts for about $50.”

Bidding sites – websites where writers bid on posted freelance work are known among many freelance writers to be low paying – and they’re rarely, if ever, a great place to make a living. From what I’ve seen on these boards, $50 for two blog posts would be a good contract. Many gigs request writers that work for far less. I’ve personally seen a post offering a maximum of $2.40 for a 400 word post. Yikes!

From an employer’s perspective, hiring someone less expensive is good for the bottom line. But, on the flip side, will low cost mean low quality? If the writer you hire for “pretty cheap” is turning out dozens of low-paying pieces per day just to stay financially afloat, are you getting quality work, or the work of someone who is rushing to the next gig? Yes, there are quality writers who place too low a value on what they offer, but finding one is tough.

From a writer’s perspective, I’m afraid that bidding sites are driving down the rates writers are able to charge for their work. If enough writers on bidding sites are willing to accept low-paying gigs, will this impact the rate that employers expect to pay as these sites gain popularity?

I set hourly and per word rates that reflect my writing experience, the expertise I have in financial and professional services writing and editing and what the average market rate is where I live. Do I sometimes adjust my rate for a client that I really want to work with? Of course, but only if I know that I will get additional work from that employer in the future or if I really believe in what they’re doing and want to be part of it. If it’s a publication that I am pitching, they usually set what they offer, and I simply read the contracts carefully to ensure that I am comfortable with the terms.

My advice to an employer is to carefully hire your writers – and to pay them fairly. As for fellow writers, be careful what you accept. For both writers and employers, be willing to negotiate. Between the high and the low, there’s often a good middle price that everyone will find fair.

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